Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd” as Want to Read:
The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,755 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
Everybody knows the legend of Captain Kidd, America's most ruthless buccanneer. Few people realize that the facts of his life make for a much better tale. Kidd was actually a tough New York sea captain hired to chase pirates, a married war hero whose secret mission took a spectacularly bad turn.

This harrowing tale traces Kidd's voyages in the 1690s from his home near Wall
ebook, 432 pages
Published June 18th 2003 by Hyperion (first published 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pirate Hunter, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Pirate Hunter

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oct 14, 2008 Danielle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Danielle by: Danae
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is borderline between "It was okay" and "I liked it" so, 2 1/2 stars.
Basically, you should forget everything you thought you knew about Captain Kidd. Which, for me was, "He was a pirate." Turns out I was even wrong about that. Here are the main things I liked about this book:
1. The true story of what happened to Captain Kidd is quite interesting.
2. It gives you a credible look at what it was really like to be a pirate, in a very entertaining way.
3. It was cool to get a feel for what wa

Kids, turns out Captain Kidd was not kidding after all when he said he was not a pirate. He was a privateer, and in fact, a pirate hunter.

There is a difference between a pirate and a privateer, and an important one at that (especially in Kidd’s case). A privateer owns a warship which is commissioned by his country to prey on the commercial shipping or warships of an enemy nation. A privateer ship never harms the ships of its home country or even ‘friendlies’. On the other hand, a pirate is some
Jun 21, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The study of piracy allows author Richard Zacks to satisfy his interest in the bizarre and seedy details of the past. His ten year old book, “The Pirate Hunter,” is a colorful and shocking retelling of the life and voyages of Captain William Kidd. This work often serves as a delivery device for rare and scandalous descriptions of outmoded behavior patterns from the late 17th century, including sex, classism, violence, and injustice. Zacks never fails to find an opening to drop strange details ab ...more
Nov 13, 2012 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reviews on this book seem a bit mixed, which puzzles me a bit. I found it to be a wonderful read, bringing to life characters such as Captain Kidd and Captain Culliford. I had known little about Kidd before reading this except that he was purportedly one of the most notable pirates of the 17th century. The truth is far from this, his mistake not becoming a pirate, but trusting powerful, greedy people when his luck was down and they would be liable to face scandal. Along the way I learned a bit a ...more
Nicole Marble
Jun 06, 2009 Nicole Marble rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly timely - pirates and justice.
A fascinating, and lengthy, account of the life of Captain Kidd, accused of being a pirate. The story itself is fascinating with abundant details of life in the New and Old worlds in the late 1600's. The scope of research is very impressive!
For those who think todays politics and bureaucracy are rough - read this account! The book gets better and better as we near the end. We learn of the use, and abuse, of habeus corpus (the right to a lawyer), so much
Despite the title, this book is actually a biography of two men: Kidd, a bullish New York-Scottish privateer with bad luck; and Robert Culliford, a roguish pirate with extraordinary good luck. The men sailed together more than once; Zacks weaves their stories together as a race of fate, with one headed to the gallows and one to freedom. The book is incredibly thorough, delightful during the juicier pirate-heavy sections but tiresome during the life chronology. Reading through several chapters of ...more
Feb 24, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
Richard Zacks tells a fast paced account of two pirates in Pirate Hunter. The book focuses on Captain Kidd the respectable merchant who bet his fortune on hunting pirates and became the victim of bad misfortune and political luck. The other is of Robert Culliford the pirate who serves as Kidd’s foil throughout this tale and the target of Kidd’s hunt in the Indian Ocean. From the economic war between the great nations of the day to the spat between the old and the new East India Trading Company, ...more
Paul (formerly known as Current)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 13, 2012 Ray rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Pirate Hunter, by Richard Zacks, completely turned around any notion I had about the notorious Captain Kidd. Zacks research shows that Captain Kidd's reputation as a villain and terror on the high seas was undeserved. Rather, it appears that Kidd was maligned by others for a variety of reasons, which ultimately led to his capture, trial, execution, and his historical reputation as a pirate.

Zacks narrative gives the reader an appreciation of what life in Britain and the Colonies was like at
A.J. Smith
May 16, 2008 A.J. Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pirate fans, New York City historians, and anyone looking for a great read.
Like any Navy kid growing up, I always dreamed of being a pirate. Having grown up, I know it will be just a dream. I get the feeling Richard Zacks had the same dreams as a kid. Thank God. Because the effort he put into The Pirate Hunter just doesn't seem possible for someone with merely a passing interest in piracy.
The tale of Captain Kidd is an incredible journey into the life of a man who was thrown so many curves, for centuries he was vilified as the very thing he was trying to hunt. With in
Ian Birlem
Dec 26, 2007 Ian Birlem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
I was as captivated as a small boy might be reading nursery tales about pirates! It's so interesting and just captivating. This is one of the best pieces of history writing I've ever read. The book is well researched and written. It reads like a great fiction book and is loaded with so many details you can picture what life was like in the late 1600's on the ocean, in the colonies and the US. The tales show why young men would rebel against their naval commanders and risk everything to live a wi ...more
I used to think that the golden age of piracy was a time when the true and just Royal Navy defended honest and fearful merchants from the moraly bankrupt and evil pirates. But it seems the world was much more grey than all that. The royal navy often took sailors from merchant vessels by force to fill their ranks, Buccaneers were legal mercenaries allowed to raid ships so long as they were enemies of the queen, and merchants did plenty of exploiting and shipping of contraband too. True pirates, i ...more
Ben Dial
Feb 16, 2013 Ben Dial rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion, this book was fantastic. The author wove multiple narratives together rather seamlessly to compile a very convincing argument that William Kidd was no pirate. This book makes a very compelling argument that Kidd acted legally as a privateer under the direction of High nobles and the King himself.

Seeing evidence of the corruption, backstabbing, and complete disregard for human life, property, or dignity by a government system meant to protect those very virtues was on one hand fasc
Feb 18, 2011 Jed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating broad-ranging depiction of the late-17th century world in the American Colonies, England, the Indian Ocean & the Caribbean.

This book follows the misunderstood career of the infamous Captain Kidd. Full of vivid, memorable characters.

A world of slavery, constant war at sea among European powers, burgeoning world-girdling commerce in sailing ships, gross class inequality, brutality, piracy. Could not be better done.

But only 4 stars because, like so much of human history, the "win
Oct 06, 2008 Evannn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pirate lovers, not pirate smokers
Recommended to Evannn by: Grier
If you love pirates and history (Pirate history, of course), this book is for you! Okay, so that sounded cheesy and lame. However, this book is neither.

A very thorough account of Captain Kidd's (mis?)adventures, and how he got completely double-crossed and sold out by just about everyone. Even i was surprised how bad he had it. Despite the thoroughness of Zacks' presentation, he manages never to lose the story (and it's a good one), so the book never got dry for me. You'll also learn a lot about
Hooded Figure from your friendly neighbourhood dog park
So this was pretty good! Interesting to listen to as a story, not just research material. The author seems to be a bit of a Kidd fanboy and it shows, but I liked how much of historical background stuff he's included - Malagasy customs! The only point on which this loses to If A Pirate I Must Be... is it completely ignores pirates being anything but heterosexual and the existence of Robert Culliford's male lover. Pretty disappointing on that account bc no one seems to remember Culliford besides r ...more
Sep 25, 2015 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those wanting to know about Pirates
When this book came across Audible daily deal recently it peaked my curiosity because while doing some genealogical research I came across reference to one of my French Huguenot Ancestors having been a Pirate; I thought How could that be?
I tried to do further research but the time frame of the 1600-1700s seems to be a black hole for many tracing their ancestry. During that time frame more people than we realize or have account of, came or tried to come to North America; how in the world they su
Elizabeth Burton
In the annals of piratical history, the name of William Kidd is prominent next to those of Edward Teach and Anne Bonney. In this excellent piece of investigative history, Richard Zacks makes it clear that, for all his faults, Captain Kidd got a bad rap, whereas a contemporary who was an unrepentant gangster of the high seas thrived.

Hired by four British noblemen at the instigation of a hustler named Robert Livingston to sail to the Indian Ocean to hunt pirates, Kidd wasn't even out of the Atlant
Sep 07, 2011 Ted rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book brings many historical persons that you think you already know to life. It is well researched and easy to read, giving the reader a good feel for the life and times of William Kidd et al. Being a sailor myself, I found this book a compelling read and still wonder in awe at what it was like 300 years ago to ply my trade. Iron men indeed! This book was an award winner, and deservedly so.
Dec 17, 2008 Cleolinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Zacks is a little rambunctious (Flippant? Speculative? Something, I don't know) in tone, but his scholarship seems to be thorough enough. He's great at sketching out the cultural details of New York, India, and the Caribbean--those are vivid and tactile--and he has a great sympathy for Kidd, the pirate hunter who was ironically (and, most likely, unjustly) hanged for a pirate.
Michael Gerald
A story that can rival any that Hollywood can produce-only that, this one is a true story. Captain Jack Sparrow, say hello to a real character from the 17th century, one who may have been framed up and whose reputation tarnished by the real pirate he was tasked to hunt.
Mark Richmond
Dec 07, 2010 Mark Richmond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Zacks wrote this so well, I felt like I was there. The historical research he did on this was spot on! I could smell the smells of the wretched streets in old England. I could not put this book down and you won't be able to either!
Randy Corley
Jun 09, 2013 Randy Corley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read a lot of history books, thought this book was a great example of story telling. The history book reads as though it was a novel, making it a very compelling and interesting read.
While a detailed though sympathetic account of Captain Kidd’s career as a privateer/pirate and subsequent downfall, Zacks’s account treads little new ground and lacks desperately in some areas. For instance, while Zacks mentions Kidd’s appearance and the existence of his portrait, oddly, it is not illustrated anywhere in the book. Zacks’s tone meanders from moderately academic to colorfully narrative to inappropriately modern and slangy with little preface or consistency. Overall, a somewhat dul ...more
W. Lawrence
Jul 09, 2014 W. Lawrence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truth is stranger than fiction, and the saying echoes through the ages because of stories like this.

Zacks tells the story of the notorious not-so-pirate (known in those days as a privateer) who goes after Robert Culliford, who is definitely a classic pirate.

I've read most of Zacks' books and he continues to astound me by making history so incredibly entertaining that you sometimes forget you are reading non-fiction.

Can't say enough about him as an author. If you are looking for a break from the
Sean McBride
I was very excited to get started with this book when I purchased it. It had all the intrigue I was looking for, and I love pirates and piratical adventures. This was not at all what you should expect from this book. The story line is interesting and you can tell from Zacks' writing that he believes that Kidd was an innocent privateer who was waylayed with the pirate moniker.
The problem with this book isn't about the narrator however, it's with the density of the text. Zacks obviously did some
Jun 10, 2016 Jarrod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, naval
This one rounds up to four stars simply due to the historical and cultural references. Though the story is slow, the background and research are thorough. This story is important because it shows how human justice can change on a whim or based on politics. The insight into English politics and law shows the early foundations of the need for revolution in the new world. We wanted to live by a different set of rules.

Kidd seemed to be felled by personal politics and because justice can change on a
Mar 04, 2016 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Wow! So who, aside from those who've already read this book, knows that the notorious Captain Kidd was not, in fact, a pirate? That he was an upstanding privateer with a legal charter who was so outraged at the suggestion that he broke the law that he risked (and eventually lost) his life in an attempt to clear his name?

Not me!

I picked this up at a book sale on a whim (the beauty of .75 and $1.00 books it the ability to, in fact, judge a book by its cover or its blurb), and I was absolutely fas
Rob Charpentier
I ask you, who doesn’t like pirates? Well, for one, the infamous Captain Kidd was not a fan. In fact, he actually was their worst enemy. It was his job to hunt them down and recapture their ill-gotten goods. Yet, history has somehow wrongfully labeled him as being one of the more notorious pirates of his day. So much so, that his name has instant brand recognition alongside the likes of real life pirates such as Blackbeard, Black Bart, Black Sam and a vast assortment of other black-hearted ficti ...more
Feb 02, 2014 Yoake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
La primera vez no pude con él. Pero ahora que ando escasa de fondos y que me resisto a ir por el camino fácil, lo releo casi todo. La primera vez lo abandoné a las cien páginas porque El cazador de piratas no es un libro ameno sobre patas de palo, parches y grog. Es un tratado histórico sobre la suerte de un marino escocés al que contrataron para cazar piratas y al que ahorcaron sus patrocinadores, rey inglés incluido. Es una biografía detallada del pirata que tenía un tesoro que aumentaba cada ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign
  • If a Pirate I Must Be: The True Story of Black Bart, "King of the Caribbean Pirates"
  • A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier
  • Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean: The Adventurous Life of Captain Woodes Rogers
  • The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf
  • Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate
  • The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down
  • Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age
  • The Buccaneers of America
  • The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730
  • The Pirate Wars
  • A General History of the Pyrates
  • The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers & Rogues
  • Sea of Gray: The Around-The-World Odyssey of the Confederate Raider Shenandoah
  • The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire
  • The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580
  • The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain's Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Discovery
  • John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy
Richard Zacks (1955-?) was born in Savannah, Georgia but grew up in New York City. He was a Classical Greek major at the University of Michigan and studied Arabic in Cairo, Italian in Perugia, and French in the vineyards of France.. After completing Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, he wrote a syndicated column for four years carried by the NY Daily News, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News ...more
More about Richard Zacks...

Share This Book

“You’ll piss when you can’t whistle,” 0 likes
“Kidd’s gold might seed this Indies trading emporium that would pry Scotland out from under England’s heel.” 0 likes
More quotes…